The Quick Report

Everyone Agrees. These Are The Most Offensive Food Smells

Many people have sensitive noses when it comes to cuisine. Whether you’re a connoisseur of exotic cuisine or an unadventurous eater, you’ve probably been put off your appetite before by some downright offensive food smells. Here are the ten most pungent foods—but don’t knock them until you’ve tried them.

Re-Heated Seafood

orange and white fish on white and black pebbles
Photo by Mike Bergmann via Unsplash

It’s no surprise that fish can smell quite foul when re-heated. If you’re trying to not upset your coworkers, don’t bring last night’s salmon fillet into the office for lunch. The scent of leftover fish dishes is enough to put many people off their appetites.


a wooden table topped with plates and bowls filled with food
Photo by Seiya Maeda via Unsplash

Natto is a popular food in Japan and tastes far better than its sticky texture and unusual smell might suggest. If you’re unfamiliar with natto, it’s a fermented soybean dish—and that fermentation is key to its powerful, distinctive smell.


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Iru is a seasoning created by fermenting locust beans. Once again, fermentation is a critical element in many cultures’ cuisine that also introduces a pungent element to any dish. While iru might smell powerful, it’s got a remarkable flavor that brings out the unique compositions of Nigerian cooking.


Doenjang jigae
Image via Openverse

It should come as no surprise that doenjang is also remarkably odorous. Like natto, this dish is also created from fermented soybeans. If you’ve ever been to a Korean grocery store, you’ve likely smelled this unique, ammonia-like paste. It’s got a remarkably umami flavor that is impossible to replicate, making it a staple.

Stinky Tofu

a person holding a yellow cup filled with food
Photo by Zhao Yangjun via Unsplash

It’s somewhat funny that “chòu dòufu” means “stinky tofu,” but it’s an accurate name. Fermentation brings out the most powerful smells, and that’s true of chòu dòufu as much as natto and doenjang. This popular Chinese dish is served as a street food and is renowned for its light, easy-to-eat flavor.


Image via Openverse

Many descendants of Norwegian settlers in the American Midwest have subjected people to the stench of lutefisk. This distressing dish is made by placing dried cod into lye and boiling the whole mess into a gelatinous mush. It’s technically food, but it’s only liked by people who grew up being forced to eat it.

Limburger Cheese

Limburger cheese
Photo by Alexander Maasch via Unsplash

Another unpleasant-smelling food item from the American Midwest is the genuinely upsetting Limburger cheese. This dairy product already smells onerous, but it’s made worse by Wisconsin natives’ insistence on eating Limburger sandwiches topped with raw onions. That’s a Bad Breath Sandwich!


yellow and red labeled can
Photo by Paul Einerhand via Unsplash

While the candy known as Swedish Fish is delightful, the dish that inspired it is a bit more dire. Even Swedes will tell you that surströmming emanates the stench of death. This fermented herring dish is packaged in cans that Swedes will warn you should be opened outside. What’s worse, you then need to quickly move the herring meat inside as the smell of it will quickly attract flies.

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Vieux Boulogne

assorted pile of cheese
Photo by Waldemar via Unsplash

Vieux Boulogne has been called “the smelliest cheese in the world” by experts. Its odor calls to mind rotting flesh, excrement, and death. It’s hardly appetizing, but some people can’t get enough of the stuff. Be grateful we can’t transmit smells over the internet.

Read More: 10 Ways to Keep Your Home Smelling Fresh This Spring


shallow focus photo of sliced fruit
Photo by Jim Teo via Unsplash

Everyone knew this was going to be number one. Durian isn’t the worst-smelling thing on the planet, but the fruit has such an unusual and powerful smell that it’s impossible to overlook. The combination of powerfully sweet and distressingly cheesy smells that emanate from a durian as it ripens make it easily the most offensive-smelling food out there.

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